In 1994, Nobel Prize winner and economist Kenneth Arrow understood the growing significance of information technology in shaping the economy. The same is true for the effect that information technology is having on health reform.

The role of information is transforming the nature of the economy.” — Kenneth Arrow

Recognizing the importance of electronic medical records (EMRs), the U.S. government has developed an electronic health record strategy that will impact the delivery of health care. The Health Information Technology for Economic and Clinical Health Act (HITECH) provides financial incentives for EMR implementation. Findings from the CardioSurve panel indicate that the cardiovascular profession is at the forefront of the EMR adoption curve.

More than half (58%) of cardiologists are already using an EMR. Additionally, another 36% indicate that they will adopt an EMR within the next two to three years. This means that 94% of these practices have/will have an EMR within the next two to three years. Of interest, we have seen the number of cardiologists who have acquired or are planning EMR adoption increase from 84% recorded in 2008 to 94% today.

A survey released by SK&A in February 2010 found a 36% EMR adoption rate in U.S. medical offices compared to 33% percent last year at the same time. The 58% adoption rate recorded by CardioSurve suggests that the cardiology practices are more likely to be using EMRs. The type of medical specialty plays an important role in adoption. SK&A research reveals that allergy/immunology, general surgery, and general practice are less likely to have an EMR.

EMR Adoption by Practice SizeNot surprisingly, practice size also plays an important role in adoption rate. Large practices (81%) and medium-size practices (66%) are more likely to have an EMR in place, while only 34% of small practices have adopted an EMR.

However, small practices represent a substantial growth segment for EMRs as more than half of them (58%) expect to adopt an EMR in the next two to three years. CardioSurve also investigated the important influencers in EMR adoption. The three most important factors that cardiologists and cardiovascular practices take into consideration when making a decision to acquire an EMR are the monetary investment needed (67%), staff and training requirements (64%), and Medicare/government regulation and impact on reimbursement (61%). Not surprisingly, the bottom line impact of EMR to the business remains a powerful determinant in acquisition.

John Glaser, vice president and chief information officer of Partners Healthcare in Boston, recognizes the challenges that universal EMR adoption will present. “The implementation plans are good plans. Change of this magnitude will bring very real progress, but it will also bring a period of time that will be bumpy,” he said. “The strategy is ambitious, multifaceted and sophisticated. This journey faces many uncertainties and will not be easy.”